brain injury inflammation

Inflammation and how it’s destroying everyone’s health

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response. brain injury inflammationIt can be beneficial when you’re injured and tissues need care and protection. However, sometimes inflammation can persist longer than necessary, causing more harm than good. Chronic inflammation is at the root of so many illnesses we face today.

For example, brain networks in babies as well as future cognitive development reflect the degree of inflammation their mothers experienced during pregnancy, according to some new studies, leaving them vulnerable to conditions like autism, schizophrenia etc.

Inflammation cooks our genetics & accelerates aging, creating all sorts of pathologies (bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, epilepsy/seizures, brain tumors, obesity, arthritis, IBS, fibromyalgia etc.) Treating our inflammation can reverse many of these pathologies.

Common causes of inflammation:

1- Diet: Refined flour, refined and excess sugar, oxidized/rancid fats, trans fats, chemicals, preservatives.

2- Obesity: Obesity is an inflammatory state. Your body is struggling and it’s only going to get worse until you do something.

3-Poor gut health: Disruptions in the gut microbiome create intestinal permeability and contribute to systemic inflammation.

4-Stress: Stress stimulates pro inflammatory signalling. Chronic stress=chronic inflammation.

Dental disease, chronic infection, vitamin D deficiency also trigger inflammation in the body.

Our standard American diet is incredibly high in sugar. Sugar is inflammatory and makes our gut more permeable, creating even more inflammation. Inflammation leads to DNA damage, which leads to cancer changes. Reducing your carbohydrate intake, while getting the majority of your carbs from vegetables can really support your body, allowing it to slow and even reverse illness.

For those who need a lot of repair, studies are showing that ketosis repairs DNA, along with increasing mitochondrial function, and therefore increasing brain function. Intermittent fasting and eating high fat/low carbohydrate both put your body into ketosis (where it switches from carb fuel to fat fuel).

Exogenous ketones can be helpful in the beginning as they help to decrease appetite and make the insulin receptors work better (but they cannot replace doing the work). Once our insulin receptors work better, the body doesn’t have to produce as much insulin to get into the cell. So now we can produce less and that inflammatory cascade will start to go down.

How else can we lower inflammation?

  • Good omega-3 & other healthy fats (coconut, olive, avocado, nuts & seeds, fish, free-range eggs, grass-fed meat)
  • Turmeric and pepper together (spices in general are great for your health)
  • Vegetable based diet
  • Movement (30min 5x week min)
  • Sleep. Lack of sleep is really hard on the brain and creates plaque on arterial walls
  • Stress reduction. Make time for the things that feed your soul & help you feel grounded, peaceful, and recharged.

A healthy eating regimen, movement, stress reduction and proper sleep it’s really all we need to reverse most illness. The big people in charge are not interested in spreading this message, so we need to help each other♥️

If you’d like to learn more about how to turn the tables on your illness and paving the way to better health, send me a message and I’d be delighted to help you get started!

 

Eggs, prosciutto, kale, portobello

My Experience so far with Low Carb/Ketogenic Eating

I’ll be honest, I’d been pretty resistant to learning/accepting ketogenic eating as a sustainable option for myself or my clients. Everything I’d heard sounded so restrictive. This year however I decided to tune into the 2018 Ketogenic Summit; where everyday for 7 days you get 24 hour access to 4-5 different talks with various doctors, scientists and experts who offer their opinion and explain their reasoning.

I was already on board with the position that sugar & inflammation is at the root of so many illnesses we face today, so understanding that reducing your carbohydrate intake can be incredibly beneficial was an easy sell. I’ve also long believed that sufficient amounts of healthy fats are missing in many of our diets today. What was most exciting about this summit was learning the benefits of your body running off ketones instead of glucose.

Luckily I had already done the work of cutting out processed foods and increasing my movement (thanks to my Fitbit), so I looked for a bread substitute, made some cauliflower rice and I was off to the races!

Week 1: I did well 6 out of 7 days. I noticed that I woke up feeling awake, instead of my usual groggy I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed usual feeling. I felt lighter and had more energy, but seemed to be getting afternoon headaches. My mood felt more stable and my stomach didn’t hurt (aside from feeling nauseous twice after eating package-bought spinach dip). I wasn’t hungry all the time.

Week 2: This week was a struggle. It started off by going to a friend’s place for a BBQ. I put some ribs and coleslaw on my plate but then my host added a baked potato to my plate and i decided to eat it instead of refusing it. I also had some red wine over the course of the afternoon/evening. I was surprised the next morning to see trace ketones on my test strip and thought all was well, but what followed was increased carb cravings, more falling off track and feeling tired, unmotivated & emotional. I tried to push though it with increased exercise & better food choices. I had a couple mini meltdowns, but after readjusting my expectations & reminding myself that not all progress in linear, I got myself back on track.

Week 3: This week was my best week. Everyday I kept my carbs at about 10%-15% of total intake (which is higher than what most keto experts recommend) but I felt great all week and my ketone levels were strong. I also found that snacking doesn’t make me feel so good so I started having larger meals and cutting out snacking (mostly). I also lost some weight; 6lbs total since the beginning. Most of it in the 3rd week.

This journey will be an ongoing learning experience for me as I come to understand why I can be in ketosis at higher carb levels than recommended, if this will be true for others, and how this shakes out long term. My intentions are to stay low carb indefinitely, but to continue exploring ketosis for the short term and periodically for health maintenance. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much flexibility it provides. 2 nights in week 3 I enjoyed a couple glasses for red wine, and another day I had some jackfruit that I found fresh for the first time since trying it in Africa in 2008; it was so worth it and didn’t seem to throw me off too much.

If you’re curious about low crab eating or ketogenic eating, send me a message and I’d be happy to offer some basic tips for starting out that can make your first few days/weeks a lot more enjoyable 🙂

Coffee, MCT oil, cinnamon Eggs, prosciutto, kale, portobello Fish, asparagus, cauliflower rice pure kitchen, royal with cheese, burger salad

cauliflower rice

Ketosis & Intermittent Fasting

Ketosis (which can be induced by eating a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting) bring many benefits to our health:

  1. Ketones help modulate inflammation
  2. Ketones improve mitochondrial function
  3. Reducing carbohydrate gives your body a chance to modulate it’s insulin response
  4. Ketosis reduces hunger, increases energy & improves cognitive function (making intermittent fasting easier)
  5. Ketosis preserves lean body tissues
  6. Having more balanced blood sugar creates more stability (emotionally & physically)
  7. Ketosis & intermittent fasting help break sugar & alcohol addictions

    almond bread low carb keto

    Almond bread

It takes time for your body to adapt to change, so the trick is to ease into it. For example, week one cute out all processed foods including soda, pastries etc. Week two remove added sugars (in your coffee, oatmeal, smoothies etc.). Week three make some almond bread and cauliflower rice and start reducing bread, rice and other grains etc. etc. As exciting as it is to start something new, there is nothing more discouraging than feeling shitty – and you will if you make dramatic shifts.

cauliflower rice

Cauliflower Rice Goes well with everything

While you are making these small & steady shifts, they and reduce your window of eating. If your first meal is typically 7am and your last intake of food is 10pm, try to shave an hour off each end, a week at a time. That being said, if you’re hungry, eat, but slowly your body will adapt to this (especially as you increase daily fat intake and reduce carbohydrate intake).

Exercise also helps create ketones & improve brain function, so increasing your daily activity can help your body adapt to this shift. Summer is a great time for this 🙂

If you have a serious medical condition, talk to your doctor and have them support you in making this shift (hint: if they don’t want to, your should find a new doctor).

Lastly, be patient, enjoy the process, and remember that not all progress is linear. If you have a high-carb day, reflect on why, let go, and keep moving forward. Your good days will build momentum overtime and you will notice a huge difference.

I’ve been eating low carb and exploring keto eating since early May and I’ve experienced reduced hunger, increased energy and overall more emotional and physical stability. I’ve also lost 5 lbs, which is not what this is about for me, and I’m sure a big portion of it is water weight but it’s nice to look overall less puffy/inflamed.

If you have any questions or curiosity about the above info – send me a message! I’d love to hear your thoughts & help you solve any questions you may have!

overworked, stress, HPA-D, HPA axis

HPA axis dysregulation (Adrenal Fatigue)

Most people are familiar with the term Adrenal Fatigue. Adrenal Fatigue is the common term we use for HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis dysregulation. HPA-D is typically due to our modern diet and high-stress culture. These modern stressors affect our HPA axis, which in turn affects nearly every organ & system of the body, including the gut, brain, thyroid, metabolism, catabolism & reproductive system.

overworked, stress

There are 4 major triggers that lead to HPA axis Dysregulation

  1. Inflammation (food sensitivities, dysbiosis etc)
  2. Insulin resistance/poor blood sugar control
  3. Circadian rhythm disruption (not enough daylight, too much light at night)
  4. Chronic stress (real or perceived)

Our body’s protective response to chronic stress is complex. Some of those processes related to HPA-D are:

  1. It down regulates our HPA axis, therefore decreasing our ability to produce cortisol
  2. Cortisol resistance due to decreased sensitivity in cortisol receptors (a reaction to chronic excess)
  3. Decreased bio-availability of cortisol tissue

Other risk factors for HPA-D include: poor diet, stimulants (caffeine, sugar etc.), exhaustive exercise, physical injury, toxins, chronic infections (H.Pylori etc), & autoimmune conditions. Basically all variations of chronic stress on the body.

What can we do?

  1. Diet: Reduce caffeine, avoid sugar, grains and dairy (all 3 are inflammatory) as well as any foods you suspect you may be sensitive to. Optimize you digestion by reducing liquids at meal time, chewing thoroughly and focusing on your food.
  2. Liver Support: Our liver detoxes, produces hormones, regulates various processes, transforms and/or synthesizes nearly everything our body use. Eat cruciferous vegetables and drink lemon water daily,
  3. Immune Support: Licorice root to increase 1/2 life of cortisol (therefore cortisol takes longer to clear the blood). B-vitamins (esp-B5), vitamin C, omega 3 fats,
  4. Reduce Stress: Rest, make time for you and the things that restore & recharge you.
  5. Sleep: Ensure your bedroom is dark, remove electronics, and avoid electronics entirely 1-2 hours before bed. Make sure you get 8 hours sleep. If you don’t feel tired, make a tea, grab a book and go to bed anyway. Or meditate until you’re suddenly asleep (my personal favorite). You can also check out this post for other ideas!fatigue, exhausted

If you suspect you might have adrenal fatigue, and not sure where to start, we can work together to get things turned around!

zinc, exhausted

Is Zinc Deficiency the Reason You Feel Like Sh#t?!

Do you get sick often? Do your wounds heal slowly? Is your memory foggy? Is your attention wavering? Do you have chronically loose stools? Do you suffer from inflammatory skin conditions? Is your sense of taste & smell weak? Is your hair thinning, or even falling out? Has your libido gone down? Has your appetite? If you answered YES! to some of these, you might want to test your zinc levels.

Zinc is an important mineral the body needs for many, many functions. To name a few, Zinc

  • Directs body responses involving the maintenance of enzymes and cells. It contributes to the make up of over 300 types of enzymes and is needed for cell division & cellular metabolism.
  • Prevents oxidation(which creates free radicals and ages tissues), contributing to cellular longevity
  • supports serotonin and melatonin synthesis.
  • Prevents copper excess as they compete for absorption
  • Supports prostate and reproductive organ health
  • Required for DNA synthesis
  • Essential for proper immune function, wound healing, blood stability, formation of insulin, muscle contractability, normal brain function (contributing to mood stability and optimal memory)
  • Protein synthesis, contributing to healthy skin and hair
  • Hormone balance
  • Gut Health

Things that can exhaust your zinc stores are stress, over-training, and pregnancy. Things that can interfere with zinc absorption is poor gut health & excess copper levels.

Zinc deficiency is extremely common. Our soil is more depleted than ever before, rendering our food as a lesser source than it once was. Birth control also depletes our zinc levels. Foods that are still a good source are (highest to lowest):

  • Oysters (by a long shot)
  • Veal
  • Beef
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Tahini
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Chicken
  • Beans
  • Yogurt
  • Chickpeas
  • Cashews
  • Cheese
  • Almonds
  • Eggs

Do you intuitively crave any of the above foods? Listen to your body, it is always trying to communicate with you. It is also important to note that many foods, like grains, contain phytates which bind to zinc, making these foods a lesser source of zinc and sometimes interfering with zinc levels in the body. This is one of the reasons that long term consumption of a high-grain or vegetarian diet is considered a risk factor for zinc deficiency.

If you’re curious about whether you might be deficient, book an appointment with me and receive free zinc testing!

Nutritional Support for Pregnancy

Life has been pretty exciting lately. Major highlight: my best friend of over 2 decades is expecting! It’s such a trip. I’ve had other friends have children over the last decade or so, but nothing has felt quite like this. We grew up together, shared so many experiences together, and have become so close. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been about it, and it’s inspired me to post some tips for all the mamas-to-be out there. During your pregnancy, eating healthy is more important than ever, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Nutrients

  • Quality Protein: Most women need around 80 grams of protein every day for a healthy pregnancy. It’s literally the building blocks for you and your baby.
  • Healthy Fats: Consuming adequate fats is absolutely vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Also a fat-rich diet will help to reduce stretch marks!
  • Vegetables and Fruits: Vegetables and fruits have a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are helpful during pregnancy. Eating a varied diet including lots of green leafy vegetables can also help raise Vitamin K levels.
  • Water: A woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy, and her body needs to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. Drinking enough water (around a gallon a day) can help fight off morning sickness and also helps prevent constipation and make sure mom and baby are properly hydrated.
  • Probiotics: Best obtained from fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha. Babies are born with a sterile gut and rely on mom’s bacteria to get them going. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. We are only cracking the surface as to what our bacteria does for us (help digest food, create nutrients, send messages to our nervous system) . There are some major medical conditions out there (autism being one of them) that are linked to poor gut bacteria.
  • Omega-3s, DHA, RHA– Adequate good fats are absolutely essential for baby’s development. You can find them in cold water fatty fish like salmon, fresh tuna, or sardines, as well as chia, flax or hemp seeds. It can be hard to to get enough from diet on a regular basis, so you may want to supplement with Cod Liver Oil which also contains vitamin A & D (find a reputable brand).
  • Folate– Well known for its preventative effects against spina bifida and other developmental struggles, folate is another important supplement. Some foods rich in folate are lentils, broccoli, avocado & dark leafy greens.
  • Iron– Anemia can cause serious complications during delivery, and is easy to prevent. You can take a high quality supplement or try cooking with cast iron pans, eating red meat/grass fed liver, beans, pumpkin seeds, molasses and dark leafy greens to help optimize iron levels.
  • Vitamin D – Important for development, you can supplement or get it through sunlight, red meat, fatty fish, mushrooms, cheese, or egg yolks.

Foods

  • Chia & Hemp Seeds: Great sources of Omega 3, fiber, fat, and protein. Will also help keep your colon cleared out, making room for your baby/reducing discomfort.
  • Berries (especially blueberries): Rich in antioxidants, which are important during pregnancy because they reduce oxidative stress. They’re also low in sugar – Bonus!
  • Leafy Greens: Lots of what you need is packed into these foods. They’re rich in folate, easily digested fiber, high in antioxidants, calcium, iron, and much more.
  • Avocados: High in healthy fats, fiber, B-vitamins (including folate), calcium & potassium
  • Lentils: High in protein, fiber and iron!
  • Pumpkin seeds: High in B-vitamins (especially folate), calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and much more!
  • Sauerkraut: A tablespoon or 2 daily would be a fantastic source of probiotics.  It’s high in fiber, as well as vitamin A, C, K, and B vitamins. It’s also a good source of iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, in addition to contributing a moderate amount of protein to your diet. It’s super easy to make too!

A quick word about supplements

Supplements are not regulated. Many of them are synthetic/unnatural and so the bio-availability is highly questionable. It’s always better to get your nutrition from real, whole food. But life is not perfect, I get it. I take fish oil daily, B vitamins when life is extra busy and multi-vitamins when I don’t make the best food choices. If you decide to supplement, please take a moment to research the brand you’re buying from; don’t buy blindly.

Nutrition Aside..

It’s important to do whatever you can to embody wellness as you start to prepare for the arrival of this tiny human. Some suggestions would be:

  • Take the time to make space (mentally, emotionally & physically)
  • Prioritize sufficient down time & relaxation
  • Get a massage (or give yourself one)
  • Check out some prenatal yoga classes
  • Connect with your baby (touch your belly, talk to them)
  • Download the “I’m expecting” app, which provides you with info on what stages your baby is at, and what food is a comparable size (My friend’s is currently the size of an onion!)
  • Build your support system. Friends and family (bonus if there’s someone who’s been through their own pregnancy, Midwives, and Doulas. Here are some Doula packages my friend Elizabeth Foster offers.

Last but not least, take it all in and enjoy the journey! What a beautiful thing it is to create life♥

The Importance of a Balanced Microbiome

80-85% of our immunity is located in our gut wall. Our microbiome is like the right hand of our immune system. If it’s compromised, then your immune system is left to do it’s job with one hand tied behind it’s back. On top of that, exposure to a whole host of toxic by-products from the opportunistic bacteria that is now dominating your gut keeps your immune system fighting an uphill battle. Eventually the gut becomes damaged and leaky, allowing invaders and undigested food to escape the gut and enter your blood stream – which your immune system also has to deal with, in addition to being malnourished, compromised, unbalanced and intoxicated. This is also how many allergies/intolerances develop. Good news is once you restore a healthy balance, those allergies/intolerances often disappear!

Here are some key reasons we must support our beneficial bacteria

1-Our healthy indigenous gut bacteria can neutralize many toxic substances (like nitrates, indoles, phenols etc), as well as chelating heavy metals and other poisons.

2-Antibiotics wipe out good and bad bacteria, but leave some microbes untouched (like Candida) allowing it opportunity to overgrow

3-Without protection from a health layer of beneficial bacteria, we become vulnerable to anything that comes along, as well as the opportunistic bacteria already present (which require management from beneficial bacteria otherwise they overgrow & wreak havoc)

4-When our beneficial bacteria is compromised, not only do we lose its protection, but also the nourishment it provides in assisting digestion, producing vitamins, hormones and neurotransmitters. Did you know our gut derives 60-70% of it’s energy from bacterial activity?

5-If our microbiome is damaged, the best foods and supplements you can buy may not be broken down, digested and absorbed.

6-Our beneficial bacteria produce a constant steady stream of K2, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, amino acids, hormones, neurotransmitters and much more. Without a healthy colony, there will be periods in the day where you’ll be deficient, even with supplementation.

So what damages out gut?

1-Antibiotics (whether prescribed, in our meat, or sprayed onto our produce)

2-Chlorine in our tap water

3-Other prescription drugs (steroids, birth control, sleeping pills, heartburn medication)

4-Diet (sugar and processed carbs support fungi, parasites and opportunistic bacteria)

5-Chronic stress

6-Environmental pollution/toxins

Our bodies are all capable of dealing with a certain level of exposure (some more than others), but every body has a breaking point, and in our current modern day lifestyle, many bodies are chronically being pushed past theirs.

If you’d like to learn more, and find out how to support your own microbiome, check out some of my other posts here & here, or book an appointment with me here.

Wellness Wednesdays – Au Naturel Hair Care

Here are various pictures of how much I tried to hide my hair as a teen. Bottom right shows you just how stripped & lifeless my hair actually was

I’m always preaching to my girlfriends with hair & scalp complaints to ditch the commercial products and start using homemade, natural options instead. I hated (yes, hate is a strong word, but accurate) the hair I was born with for sooo long. People who had known me for years would tease me that they’d never seen my hair down. It would always be tightly restricted in bun(s) or braid(s). Otherwise it was a wild frizzy disaster – no matter how much i spent on top of the line shampoos, conditioners, leave in creams etc.

It was only when I started to experiment with baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar conditioning that i started to see my hair in a whole new light! The most notable was that my curls were more defined and less of a frizzy mess, and it shined like never before!

If you have troubled hair (or scalp), try this out for a few weeks and notice the results!

Shampooing 

  1. Mix together 1 part baking soda with 3 parts water in a clear jar for multiple use (adding a few drops of essential oil for fragrance if you like).
  2. Scrub the paste into your hair and scalp. Let it sit for a minute or two; then, rinse clean.

Benefits of Using Baking Soda:

  • It balances your natural PH so your scalp produces the proper amount of oil, clearing up dandruff, excess oil & an otherwise irritated scalp
  • It’s paraben, sodium laurel sulfate, DEA/Diethanolamine, dye and fragrance-free
  • It contains a single, all-natural ingredient (sodium bicarbonate)
  • It’s cheaper than any commercial shampoo on the market
  • It doesn’t create build up

It takes time for your body to adjust its oil production so don’t be surprised if your hair feels greasier (or drier) than usual when you first make the switch. As soon as your body adjusts, your hair will look and feel better than ever, and it’ll stay clean longer, too. Most baking soda shampooers find that they only need to wash their hair a few times a week

Conditioning

  1. Mix together 1 part cider with 4 parts water in a big jar for multiple use (adding a few drops of essential oil for fragrance if you like- my favorite is eucalyptus).

Apple cider vinegar moisturizes, adds shine and reduces frizz. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell if you choose to not use any essential oils, it’s 100% gone by the time your hair dries.

Dry Shampoo

If you find yourself in a pinch & don’t have time to wash your hair, just sprinkle some baking soda onto your roots, flip your hair upside, and tousle it all in. It’s way cheaper & cleaner than purchasing the chemical ridden cans of dry shampoo at the store, and works just as well.

Honestly you’ll wonder what took you so long to make the switch!

Let me know what your before and after is like.

This is my hair now, far less maintenance, no leave in creams, so much healthier

Curly but not frizzy 🙂

 

 

 

Emotional Eating

Let’s be real; we’re all emotional eaters with complex conditioning: genetic, biological, neurological, environmental, cultural etc. Whether you turn to food to sooth emotional discomfort, combat boredom, distract yourself, ease your stress, provide pleasure, rebel against yourself, to fill a void, I think we can all agree that when we’re emotionally eating, we are not in the present moment (eyes glazed over, lost in your thoughts, numb). Emotional eating is an addiction, and addictions are an external answer for an internal problem. You’re trying to change the way you feel, based on how you think it will make you feel. But does it?Continue reading